Movies: Selected Short Videos
Requires Flash support
Requires Flash support
EasyHTML 5 Video
Does NOT require Flash support
Bits on the Run
Does NOT require Flash support
I hope that you can view the above videos of a few of my hiking trips. There may be more soon. Getting these videos up and running seemed like it would be an easy task. It turned out to be an education in the different formats of video on the web and how they can be displayed.
My requirements were to be able to display the videos so that many different people with many different browsers and many different computers could view them. I wanted the viewer to be able to easily pick from a list of videos. I also wanted them to be able to control the video. Of course, I wanted to do all this for FREE. I was willing to spend a little extra time to be able to post them at no cost.
The first step was to take some videos with my Kodak point-and-shoot camera. This is very easy to do. I downloaded the videos to my computer without a problem. The videos are in MOV format which is a format developed by Apple and is playable with their Quicktime player and several other free players. The player can be stand alone on your computer but there is also a plug-in for most browsers. I found out that Jalbum will create albums of videos as well as still images. I fired up Jalbum and created an album with three MOV videos. When I clicked on the thumbnails the videos came up after a slight delay. I was able to switch between videos without much problem. There were a couple of issues. The thumbnails displayed were generic and without any labels. I was not able to control the video as it played. Further problems arose when I tried to view the videos on the network at school. The videos would start to play and then an update for Quicktime would pop up and freeze everything! I could do nothing but shut down the browser. My conclusion was that MOV format was not acceptable.
After doing some reading, I decided to convert the MOV files to Flash files and display them in that format. This would mean that users would have to have the flash plug-in installed on their computer. They would also only be able to see the videos if they did not have Flash blocked. This was a chance I decided to take. I found several commercial programs to do the conversion and many freeware programs. I downloaded them all and began to sort through them. Several of the most interesting commercial programs had no free trials so I ignored them. Although the commercial packages worked, none did exactly what I wanted them to do. Many did not produce playlists or had players with few if any controls. Some did not work because of conflicts with other codecs. Codecs are the programs that actually convert one multimedia format to another.
After a lot of program evaluation, I found Super, a free program that converts most video formats. Update: SUPER is still free but requires installing other software! I would STAY AWAY! It offers various option such as the size and quality of the output. It DOES NOT create a player. I tried converting the MOV files to SWF and the program performed well. I displayed the videos using the OBJECT tag in HTML. The videos displayed correctly but each video needed its own display space or page and there was no way to control anything as it played. I continued to search the Web for some information about a way to display the files without paying for a commercial program.
After more program evaluation, I found Moyea Flash Video MX Pro, a program that converts MOV and other video formats to Flash (FLV) format AND creates a player for use on a web page. It also coverts single videos or batch converts many along with separate HTML pages if that is what you want. Three skins are supplied with others costing $10 each. The player can also have a playlist for multiple videos. The drawback is that if retails for $100! I found an offer on Bits-du-Jour and snapped it up for less than half that amount. I will have to take more videos to make it worthwhile.
In one of my searches I came across JW Player for Flash and HTML5 from Longtail Video. Their website explains how to use it and has complete documentation. This procedure was relatively easy and many examples were given. Mostly I copied, pasted and made slight changes to the examples. Each variable is well documented. The player allows control over the size, playback options and volume of the video. It also allows a playlist to be created in XML format. The playlist and include thumbnails and titles. It can be put on either side of the player or on the top or bottom. The playlist can also include other information like the author's name and a link to another site. There is even a choice to display full screen videos. I tried displaying the SWF files through the player and everything seemed fine except I could NOT control the sound volume. I had a hunch this was because of the choice of SWF format. I converted the original MOV files to FLV and this allowed volume control. I added a few more videos to the playlist and that worked well. The player is constantly updated and well-supported.
The same company that offers the JW Player for Flash and HTML5 has an online video platform called Bits on the Run. It allows you to upload 1 GB of videos and stream 5 GB per month. This is enough for the casual user but paid account are available. After uploading the videos you can publish them separately or create a play list. If you tag the videos, you can create dynamic playlists that change as you upload more videos. You can then publish the playlist with your choice of players. The players can be configured in many different ways. To publish the videos the site produces a single line of code you can paste anywhere on your page.
The newest "thing" in web design and, therefore, in videos is HTML5. Although the standard is still being created, I wanted to experiment with this idea. Many designers argue that it is better to wait and continue using Flash format since it is so prevalent, somewhat standardized and will be around for some time to come. I came across a program called EasyHTML5 Video and decided to give it a try. The program is free for personal use but places a small logo on the video. Since the free version worked well, I purchased a license for unlimited websites. The program allows drag and drop conversion of one video at a time and produces several different formats which do not depend on Flash. It does not produce a playlist but generates a separate page for each video. I was able to rename some files and display the player in an iframe with an HTML "playlist" with links. I wrapped the whole thing in a table and it seems to work well.
I am still experimenting with the best size for the videos, the information in the playlist and the various HTML tags that can be used to display the player.